parenthood post: sleep

you know how when you're pregnant everyone is like, "oh man, you better get your sleep in now, because you're gonna miss it when that baby comes!" well, they were right. and i never really understood how right they were until i had jude. i always thought, "okay, lady, i woke up at 4:30AM every morning during high school, and i was just fine...i think i can handle a little nighttime crying for a few months." how wrong i was. what i didn't think about was the fact that, even though i woke up before the sun was up, and often functioned on six hours of sleep, it was six hours of uninterrupted sleep. and let me tell you, there is a huge difference between the two. so today, i want to talk about those first few (or dozen) months of no sleep. first, when did your baby start sleeping through the night? any special tricks or tips for new parents or soon-to-be parents? do you have a bed-time routine? did you try out a certain method? (sleep-training, cry-it-out, etc.) did any of them work? are you still struggling with sleepless nights?

i'll tell you my experience after the jump! (click below)

as many of you know, i have had the hardest time getting jude to sleep through the night. but i just want to tell you that...he's sleeping through the night! yes, after thirteen months of sleepless nights, i have finally enjoyed almost an entire week of eight full hours of sleep. do you know what that feels like? heaven.

so i'll spare you the details of the past thirteen months, and just tell you a few things that i learned through the experience.

1. the sooner, the easier. of course, the first two to three months or so, you can't expect your baby to sleep through the night. he needs to eat, have his diaper changed, etc. but i didn't really try to let jude cry it out until he was older (around six months). i think that was my biggest mistake. once he learned how to stand up in his crib, trying to get him to just cry himself back to sleep was basically impossible. i did try it when he was younger, but i just wasn't consistent with it. i think if i had been, he might have started sleeping through the night sooner. maybe.

2. create a bedtime routine. this sounds so obvious, and i had always planned on doing this, but with steve and my crazy schedules, it was hard at first to create a bedtime routine and stick with it. also, i wasn't sure when to start implementing one. but again, i think the sooner the better. the younger they learn, the more likely it is to stick. our bedtime routine is standard and easy: we brush his teeth, bathe him, get him in his pajamas, let him play in his room for a little bit, read a few books, nurse him and then put him down. at first he would scream for a while after we turned out the lights and left him, but now he goes down without any fuss. a bedtime routine helps him calm down, and he's learned what to expect.

3. don't compare your baby to anyone else's. just because your niece started sleeping through the night at three months doesn't mean your baby will. and just because someone swears by a certain trick or technique doesn't mean it will work for you. you know your baby better than anyone else, so listen to people's advice, try it out if you want, and if it doesn't work, don't get too frustrated, and definitely don't feel like your baby is abnormal because playing baby beethoven through the night didn't make your baby stay asleep.

those are the big three. a few other things: for jude's birthday, my in-laws gave him a build-a-bear. he loves that thing. and it helps him fall asleep. i think he just likes something to grab onto and cuddle. also, putting him to bed earlier, helped him sleep longer. i used to think, "hey if i'm gonna be up, i might as well let him stay up, that way we'll all just go to bed at the same time, and i can sleep in longer." ha, no. even if he didn't seem tired, he was, and keeping him up, trying to "wear him out" just made him exhausted, cranky and belligerent. one more thing: when he was really tiny, and was waking up all the time because he really needed to eat, my sister gave me a good tip (which seems obvious now, but i never thought about it). she said when he wakes up, go in his room, don't turn on any lights, don't say anything, and don't comfort him too much. just nurse him, and when he's done, put him right back down. that helped jude understand that nighttime was sleep time.

see what i mean about the bear?

anyway, i feel like i could talk about this forever, because it has been such an ordeal for steve and i over the past year. but i want to know your experience. was it similar? if you have multiple kids did it get easier after the first? do you have a bedtime routine? how old was your little one when you finally got a good night's sleep? i want to know!


Natalie said...

Addie was a TERRIBLE sleeper for so many months. I would get like 4 hours of combined sleep (and yes, I didn't get the difference between 6 hours of uninterrupted vs. interrupted sleep until Addie came around). And even naps were horrendous. It would take me an hour to get her to sleep and then she'd sleep for 15 minutes. I felt like death. At her 4 month apt, the dr said she was old enough to cry it out. So we tried it. I hated it, but Kenny made me stick with it. After awhile (a few weeks?) she had adjusted to falling asleep on her own for naps (she still cried herself to sleep, but it was only for like 5 minutes or so). I still hated it but I loved not taking an hour to get her to nap. Bedtime still was a struggle. Around 5 months or so, we started a bedtime routine. It took awhile for us to start one because of our crazy schedules, too! But I just change her diaper, get her in PJS, read her a scripture story, nurse her while singing some primary songs, say a prayer, and then put her down. The past two weeks she's gone down without any crying at all (she's like 6 1/2, almost 7 months). I did notice that she started doing better when we put her down earlier. I did the same thing as you--thinking I'd get more sleep if I went to sleep when she did, so it'd just keep her up (I thought, why not?). But as soon as we started a routine, she started getting tired earlier, and then I realized I could put her to bed even earlier! She goes to bed at like 7:45 or 8 now (before it was 10:30-11). She will often wake up in the middle of the night still (sometimes multiple times) but we just let her cry herself to sleep again and then around 4 or 5 when she wakes up, I nurse her in bed and then put her back down and she'll sleep till about 7 or so in the morning. Totally manageable! The first 4 months were awful awful and I compared myself all the time (even though I knew I shouldn't) and it was frustrating. I know what we did might not work for everyone but I'm glad it did for us (not that we didn't try lots of things before this time that worked). Okay, now that I've written a comment as long as your blog post, I'm done.

Ruth said...

Lily slept through the night (from about 10:30pm until 6:30am) for the first time when she was a little over a month old. That was definitely a one-time thing though. I don't remember when she consistently started sleeping through the night but I feel like it was when she was about 2 or 3 months old. She would go through periods of sleeping through the night and periods of needing to nurse at least once during the night. Again, I don't remember when she stopped waking up for good, but it seems like it's been a long time now.
We never had much of a bed time routine besides changing her diaper, putting her in pj's, nursing her, or giving her a bottle and putting her in bed. I don't remember when we stopped giving her a bottle at night (it was definitely after 12 months) but since then the routine has pretty consistently been potty/change diaper, PJs, brush teeth, prayer, crib. We put her down anywhere from 8-8:30pm. If it's earlier I try to read her a book too, but lots of times we're late so we skip the book.
The thing we did to get Lily to sleep through the night was follow the advice of the book Baby Wise. The full title is On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. One of my sisters-in-law used it for her kids and highly recommended it to me. I don't know if it would work for everyone but it seemed to work for us. The basic principle is that your baby needs to eat at regular intervals (which are different depending on your baby's age and what-not) during the day and that you should follow a pattern of nursing/feeding, wake-time, sleep-time. So, I know people that swear by the saying "never wake a sleeping baby" but I woke Lily up regularly. If she was on a three-hour eating schedule and was still sleeping after 3.5 hours I would wake her up to nurse her. Oh, and we definitely used the cry it out method, too. That worked really well for naps. After about two days of crying it out for nap time she would fall asleep in 5 minutes or less. During the night it depended cuz sometimes she was just hungry so if we let her cry herself back to sleep she would just wake up crying an hour later.
I definitely agree with you that people need to do whatever works for them and their baby. These things worked for me, but I'm sure they would not work for everyone.

Ace and Waleena...Two people, actually said...

Now that Jude is beginning to sleep through the night I will give you one bit of advice. As he gets older and wakes up in the middle of the night (bad dreams, etc.) instead of bringing him into bed with you so he can go back to sleep, go into his room and lie down there yourself...leave him in his own crib or bed but stay until he is asleep again (even if you fall asleep there yourself!). I am so glad that I did that when my girls were little. Once a child thinks they can sleep in your bed with you it never ends!

What I Did Today said...

Oh boy! This is such a good post topic. My first baby was super easy and I found that co-sleeping while nursing was awesome with her. Once she got mobile and weaned (which happened at the same time) she transitioned to a crib fairly easily and we quickly discovered these same three tips of yours. The second baby wasn't as easy and she didn't like co-sleeping. Which made night time nursing less fun (and me into a more grouchy mama), but she went through stages of good sleeping and bad sleeping and then (once again) when she weaned and moved out of our room, she became a dream sleeper (just like her big sister). When they wake up in the middle of the night, Tony or I (depending on whether I push him out of bed, or not) will go in, give a hug and lay them back down. They don't expect anything else, which is nice. So - I think we've been pretty lucky/blessed. Until last month. I've got two toddlers in a bedroom together and they wake up between 5 and 6 and play, scream, yell, and destroy their room (yes, the oldest can get out of her crib) until I drag myelf out of bed and start the day. I have no idea what I'm gonna do when this 3rd baby arrives! Hopefully I can avoid insanity.

annie said...

I kept meaning to comment on this post and I just haven't found the time to sit down and do it.
Ok, so first off of course the first two months were rough with Olivia. But half way through the second month she started sleeping longer intervals, and at more regular times. That's when I started doing what I told you to do: when it was time to feed her I would leave all of the lights off, not even say anything to her, and when she was finished eating I would just put her right back in her crib. Once she got to the point that she could go the entire night without being fed we started letting her cry it out (thank goodness for Tyler's dedication and encouragement...that has to be one of the hardest things to do as a mother). But I will say this: I really did have it very easy; my rule was that I would let her cry for 10 minutes and then I would go check on her. I never had to go check on her. The longest she cried before going to sleep was like 7 minutes. So, after about 3 months she was sleeping at least 9 hours at a time every night. It took me a while longer to figure out the whole nap schedule but we got it down pretty well by about 5 months...just figured out Olivia's pattern of sleep during the day and made it into a true schedule that I stuck with - and yes that did mean more crying it out sometimes. Ever since she has been an absolute angel when it comes to sleep. In fact she actually just enjoys being in her crib. Sometimes I wake up to her singing songs and playing in there. Our bedtime schedule now is pretty basic - diaper change, lotion (she has serious eczema. That's also why we only bathe her twice a week) pajamas, brushing teeth, prayer, singing, and then sleep. She has even starting closing her little eyes as I tuck her in, acting like she's sleeping...it's very cute. Either way, every child is different, and every mother has her own unique challenges. For us, sleep has just never been one of them. Although I must say that having a strict schedule, and being consistent really did help.

elise said...

i love hearing what worked for other people! you guys don't know how much your comments help me out, even it's just a reminder that i'm not alone! thank you!